I'm sure most of us have busy, wonderful, fulfilling lives, but sometimes that life gets overwhelming. Yet in the midst of that whirlwind, we wouldn't forget to feed the dog, would we? I didn't think so.
'I want to write but life is getting in the way right now.' This is different than the over-scheduled lives of folks who can't say 'no.' I'm talking about those chunks of time, whether it's a few weeks, a few months or a year when all the various parts of our existence conspire against us and demand extra attention . . . all at the same time. It's those periods when no matter how we try to protect our physical and mental writing space, life encroaches. Just like we wouldn't forget to feed our dog, we can't forget to feed our Muse.
I know it's a challenge. Part of my spring and summer included preparing for a son's wedding which meant three showers, two planned/hosted by me, tucked in were two trips to Ohio - one a three day jaunt from Lancaster, SC to Cleveland to tend an ailing mom-in-law, the other a five day trip visiting five different cities between the Ohio River and Lake Erie book-ended with ten hour road trips, then the shopping and cleaning for the out-of-state wedding company coming and staying for two weeks in various family and number combinations but never fewer than two and one night we had ten extra bodies, then came the rehearsal dinner and wedding and while we still had company, the first medical emergency requiring a daily drive to the hospital, forty-five minutes away, for six days, then the second, luckily, was local and took up only two half days and while neither ended in death, I did have a wake and a funeral to attend and our two dogs were late with their shots so they HAD to have them and all this is going on as workers decide to finally start siding the house . . .
And I wouldn't change any of it for more writing time. Well, maybe the hospital stuff. That wasn't fun for any of us. But even that is the mix of life which makes my writing fuller. And I knew most of it was going to happen and be temporary. Though our dogs' feeding schedules were a bit off and they didn't get the attention they were used to, they weren't forgotten. Neither was my Muse.
Here are a few 1 to 5 minute 'snacks' you can feed your Muse when you can't give her a full-course meal. Some are suggestions we've heard before but we sometimes need a reminder.
1. Give yourself permission to let the Muse nibble. This isn't a steady diet, it's temporary. When life gets back to normal, she'll be waiting for you.
2. Stay connected to your writing community as best you can. I still attended my poetry group and SCWW chapter meetings, even when I had nothing of my own to share. I contributed to the critiquing of the other members' work and in that I was energized. Our chapter hosted its annual workshop, the morning after we had ten extra people spend the night, and I made sure I was there.
3. Edit. Even when my creative brain was numb or I couldn't squeeze in enough time to really write, my editing brain still functioned. In 5 minutes I was able to edit a few pages or look over a poem.
4. Stash index cards all over the house. While you are waiting for water to boil or just before you turn off the bedroom lamp . . . take a minute or two and jot down something. Anything. Describe what the water looks like while it boils. Describe what it feels like to be tired and overwhelmed. Write your 'to do' list. After all, you never know when your character will need to watch a pot of water boil or a list of errands holds clues to a murder.
5. Journal. At one point in my life that's all I could manage. Those journals have contributed to a book of poetry, several essays and my fiction.
6. Have fun with word games. I love words. I love the way they feel in my mouth as they roll around my tongue, click against my teeth and slip through my lips. So I love doing crossword puzzles. I'm re-introduced to words I've forgotten. I discover interesting words rarely used anymore. I learn new and quirky definitions for words I already know.
7. Read. Keep copies of Writer, The Writer's Digest, a book of poetry, an anthology of short stories, anything, in all the rooms you use. You'll be surprised what you can read in 5 minutes.
8. Most of all, enjoy the ebb and flow of your busy, wonderful, fulfilling life. It is the stuff of your writing.